The application of cell-based label-free technology in drug discovery

Biotechnol J. 2008 Apr;3(4):484-95. doi: 10.1002/biot.200800020.


Cell-based assays are an important part of the drug discovery process allowing for interrogation of targets and pathways in a more physiological setting compared to biochemical assays. One of the main hurdles in the cell-based assay field is to design sufficiently robust assays with adequate signal to noise parameters while maintaining the inherent physiology of the pathway or target being investigated. Conventional label and reporter-based cell assays may be more prone to artifacts due to considerable manipulation of the cell either by the label or over-expression of targets or reporter proteins. Cell-based label-free technologies preclude the need for cellular labeling or over-expression of reporter proteins, utilizing the inherent morphological and adhesive characteristics of the cell as a physiologically relevant and quantitative readout for various cellular assays. Furthermore, these technologies utilize non-invasive measurements allowing for time resolution and kinetics in the assay. In this article, we have reviewed the various label-free technologies that are being used in drug discovery settings and have focused our discussion on impedance-based label-free technologies and its main applications in drug discovery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Cell-Free System / physiology*
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Drug Design*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Proteome